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Penn State embarrasses Notre Dame, 31-10
State College, PA - In a game marred by twenty-one penalties and sloppy play, Penn State's defense held Notre Dame's offense to no rushing yards and sacked highly-touted freshman QB Jimmy Clausen six times to defeat the Irish (0-2) 31-0 in front of 110,087 mostly white-clad fans. PSU's offense played lackadaisically and inefficiently at times, but pulled off enough big plays to defeat the Irish who relied on defense and special teams for their only two scores. For Collegefootballfan.com, it was the fourth time we've seen the Lions defeat the Irish in five contests held a Beaver Stadium.
On a hot, humid night where one could become snow-blind in Beaver Stadium, we were greeted by our good friends John and Kelle Massimilla, die-hard, white-clad PSU fans who fell silent among the throngs when ND CB Darrin Walls picked off Anthony Morrelli's pass and rambled 73 yards down the left sideline in the opposite direction for an Irish TD. Brandon Walker's conversion gave Notre Dame a 7-0 lead. The Irish had the ball again at Penn State's 37 after S Tom Zbikowski forced an Austin Scott fumble. However, the Nittany Lion defense was up to the task and forced the Irish offense back nine yards before their subsequent punt. It wasn't until :52 remained in the first period when Derrick Williams put PSU on the scoreboard with an electrifying 78-yard punt return. Adding to the excitement was his almost-muff before grasping the ball and tying the score along with Kevin Kelly's extra point. The score evened at 7-7. The Junior Kicker is the first and only Bowl Division PK we've seen among six now that was able to consistently put the ball in the end zone from the new thirty yard-line kick-off stripe. Assuredly the guys who select players on Sundays now watch this carefully.
Following a sack of Clausen (17 of 32,1 INT,144 yards) by DE Aaron Maybin at the Irish five, PSU took over at its own 49. Six plays later, Morrelli passed ten yards to WR Jordan Norwood who juked an Irish defender at the goal line to take the ball in for PSU's second score and a 14-7 lead. Before the half ended, PSU displayed typical clock mismanagement on their part to try to garner one more score. Before forcing the Irish to punt from their five, eight seconds were lost off the clock before calling their third time-out. Then, Williams misplayed the punt allowing it to roll to his 37 yard-line for a 57-yard punt. With :09 remaining, Morrelli fumbled the ball away. PSU rarely seems to get in right when it comes to the waning seconds of either half.
The PSU and Notre Dame bands both performed before the game, during halftime, and after the game. Our friend and Notre Dame fan, Frank Rafferty, probably wishes he was there! After the PSU Blue Band finished their performance, Guest Game Analyst Steve Ciesla wondered where the White Band was! The white aura was blinding if you stared long enough. Before the game, the ND fans were welcomed to "The White House." Even the visiting ND section seemed somewhat overtaken by white-clad Penn State Faithful. Among those adorning white PSU jersey's was the recognizable Jarrod of Subway weight-loss fame. He was shown up on the big screen happily cheering the Lions with a #40 Dan Connor jersey. Paul Posluszny's replacement at MLB finished the game leading all tacklers with 12. The highlight of the halftime festivities brought back a lot of memories for those who witnessed the 1982 PSU championship season as players were introduced in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the school's first National Championship. Among the notables were QB Todd Blackledge, LB Shane Conlan, K Massimo Manca, , RB Curt Warner, and Team captain and LB Walker Lee Ashley.
The two teams came back to play after a half when the Penn State and Notre Dame offenses returned with totals of 110 and 78 yards respectively. The Lions AJ Wallace almost got as many yards as the Irish to that point when he returned the second half kick-off 68 yards to the ND 27. The rest to the Lion offense sputtered and settled for Kelly's 37-yard FG and a 17-7 lead. Several series later, ND accumulated 47 yards on Tom Zbikowski's punt return to the Nittany Lions' seven, but his offense played no better against a riled PSU defense settling for Brandon Walker's 22-yard FG keeping the Irish within "striking" distance. But the only things doing any striking this evening were Penn State's defense and Casey Clausen's helmet on the Beaver Stadium turf. The PSU offense finally came up with big with Morrelli hitting Chris Bell on a streak for a 51-yard pick-up to the eight. RB Austin Scott leapt over the Irish defense from the one for a TD, and PSU led 24-10. The air around Beaver Stadium suddenly replicated the play of the Fighting Irish as the fresh scent of cow manure wafted through the eastern side of Beaver Stadium. Even after getting new life from a roughing the kicker call, ND's offense couldn't take advantage. Sacks set them back to punt again, this time from their own twenty. It didn't help either when an Irish defender interfered with Williams catch of the ball resulting in a 15-yard penalty. PSU held a 14-point lead at the end of Q3.
In the last period, Penn State finally put together a prolonged drive primarily in the running of Scott (28 carries for 118 yards) who went off right tackle from the five to finalize the score, 31-10. The Irish seemed to respond driving next from their own 25 down to the PSU 10. On fourth and goal at the ten, a pass slipped from the hands of Clausen's intended receiver and into the hands of Lion CB Justin King.
Lion fans celebrated and went home happy crawling along the highways and by-ways of Happy Valley, but JoePa's team has much work ahead of them if they have any inkling to challenge for national honors this year. Beating Florida International and an evidently weak Notre Dame followed by any result against the Buffalo Bulls next week is not going to impress anyone. The following week lies a trap when the Lions visit currently 0-2 Michigan in the Big House. With seven straight losses to U of M, PSU better have their chin-straps buckled on tight. Laugh all you want at the Wolverines, but they never take PSU lightly. Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio State visit State College in coming weeks, and Collegefootballfan.com will be there for what could be a surprisingly important game when Purdue visits. That will be our first game one week after we complete THE GOAL!!! By the way, next week's opponent for the 0-2 Wolverines? The 0-2 Irish travel from the White House to the Big House! Something's gotta give!